23 Years of CHT Peace Accord: Crux of the crisis lies in land issues
Parao Mro, 65, karbari of remote Cha Hla Mro Para of Lama upazila in Bandarban had to leave his ancestral land around ten years ago following threats from a land grabber.
"Eight Mro families of Cha Hla Mro Para and Lulaing Mukh Mro Para were evicted and they took shelter in Latua Mro Para, Tonkaboti and Taingya Headman Para," said Basi Mro, son of Parao Mro.
They are among around 230 Jumma families who have been evicted from their ancestral land in eight mouzas of Bandarban since the signing of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Accord in 1997, according to local sources.
Their land was grabbed by either Bangalee settlers or private rubber plantation owners and horticulturists.
Singpas Mro, headman of Lulaing mouza, told The Daily Star that the land grabbing will never stop if the authorities do not take stern action.
"Six Mro families who moved from Lulaing Mukh Mro Para amid threats from land grabbers are now living in my mouza in inhuman conditions," said Singpas.
"If the Peace Accord is fully implemented, it won't be possible for anyone to evict indigenous people from their ancestral land anymore."
Today marks 23 years of the accord signing between the government and the Parbatya Chattogram Jana Sanghati Samiti (PCJSS) during the first tenure of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Gautam Dewan, president of CHT Citizens Committee, also believes the indigenous people would not be victims of land grabbing if the 1997 Peace Accord was fully implemented.
"Land problem remains the core issue of Chattogram Hill Tracts. Everything else is meaningless if the land problem is not solved," he said.
"The Chittagong Hill Tracts Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act was amended in 2016 in line with the Peace Accord but the government could not formulate the necessary rules for this and that's why it remained ineffective."
Contacted, Md Shafiqul Ahammad, secretary of CHT affairs ministry, said "We hope we will get the rules from the land ministry within December."
CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Chairman Justice Anwar-ul Haque, in a meeting held in Bandarban in February, said, "We are still waiting for the formulation of the rules of business to settle the fate of more than 24,000 petitions on land disputes."
Nipon Tripura, organising secretary of Parbatya Chattogram Pahari Chhatra Parishad, said, "Of the 72 clauses of the peace accord, only 25 clauses have been implemented fully, 12 partially, and the remaining 35 are not implemented yet."
The issues that need to be fully resolved include returning of grabbed land to indigenous owners by ending disputes through the Land Commission, rehabilitation of returning refugees and internally displaced indigenous families, and cancellation of land leases given to non-residents, he observed.